About This Creator
Lina Esco is a Los Angeles based director who is currently championing women's rights and equality via her film, Free The Nipple. Currently in 35 states in the US, it's illegal for a woman to be topless (which includes the act of breastfeeding) yet it's not against the law for a man to be topless. Additionally, social media sites (and society in general) deem women's breasts with nipple shown as indecent, yet everyday we are bombarded with violent images which aren't censored. Esco started off as an actress before creating the PSA for the critically acclaimed documentary, The Cove.
Where are you from?
Born in Miami but I left when I was 15 and moved to Europe (France and England). Then I moved to New York for a year then moved here. For the last 9 years I've been going back and forth.
When is Free The Nipple being released?
December 12 in New York in theaters, VOD and iTunes and then December 26 in select theaters in LA.
We read that the MPAA was going to rate Free The Nipple as NC-17.
Yeah but now that IFC, the distribution company, came on board they don't want to rate the film so they're not going through the MPAA. So, it's going to be non-rated.
Did you have an issue getting into certain theaters with no rating?
When we first showed our lawyers, they said we were going to get an NC-17. Getting an NC-17 is almost considered pornography, which means most theaters will not distribute the film. The irony of it all is that you can show all the violence in the world and get a PG-13. I just read that there is more gun violence in PG-13 films than there are in rated R films.
How difficult was it to film in New York?
Pretty challenging. From not being able to shoot topless women legally to hurricane Sandy. It's legal to be topless in NY since 1992 but it's not really legal when you're shooting. Getting arrested while shooting our opening scene was crazy…
At the core, why do you think this is still an issue here and not so much other places?
It's an issue still in America because there's a business behind sexualizing female bodies and covering the areola. The objectification and sexualization of boobs without an areola is big business in America. Also, we're a Puritanical country -- we're still acting like Puritans. The moment a woman owns her body and goes topless in a powerful way, they're slut shamed. This guy once told me, "If you're topless in front of me, I can't help but look at your boobs" and I said, "Ok. You can do that but at some point you're going to get tired of them. If I'm sitting here for 5 hours topless, at some point you're going to realize they’re not going anywhere and actually look at me and have a conversation." He said, "Yeah, you're right." That's what America needs. A blast of of healthy images of breasts and maybe they'll just get over this bullshit.
Have you come across people strongly against what you're working for?
Actually it doesn't bother me -- it makes me laugh. It's just ignorance. What you do is converse with people and share your passion and if they vibe with it, great. If they don't, that's ok too. We are not here to push our truth on to anyone. Our whole campaign has been a very beautiful campaign. It's taken a life of its own and hasn't been pushed on anyone. We're not here to change peoples minds. We're here to inspire them and open their eyes. This is not about going topless, it's about equality. Who would have thought that the nipple would be the Trojan horse that is unveiling the real issues of inequality and the oppression of women? If I would have made a film called “Equality” and there was no toplessness, no one would be talking about it.
Why do you think the word feminist draws such a negative reaction?
I think the radicals in the past kind of burned the name in a way. Back in the day it was actually worse than it is now, even though women still get paid 78 cents for every dollar a man makes. It wasn't until 1968 that there was a law that passed that men weren't allowed to beat their wives. Before that, there was no protection for women. So I guess at the time, feminists weren't being heard or respected and they came across as very aggressive and emotional and that dirtied the word feminism. I'm glad certain people like Emma Watson are speaking about feminism because it just means that you believe that men and women should have equal rights. That's all it means. If you believe that, you're a feminist. We're not here to vilify the penis or burn bras. In fact, my generation of men are all for it. The younger generation of guys are all for it. So, it's a conversation that needs to be had and hopefully with the film, this can start enough of a dialogue that we can hopefully be in front of the 113th Congress and Obama to create equality between men and women under the federal government.
Let's say you were to succeed. What would be the next step after that?
Creating strong female role models that little girls and boys can look up to. It's very rare that we see characters like Merida from Brave or Erin Brockovich. If we had more healthy images of women who are powerful, I think girls would start growing up to believe that they can be leaders instead of thinking that their value only lies in the way they look.
Have you ever gotten a direct response from Facebook or Instagram regarding nipples vs actual violent content (i.e. beheadings)?
We got deleted from Facebook because of our logo, which is a stick figure. It's just a drawing with two circles and a little circle which is a boob. I wrote a few columns for the Huffington Post, the first is "Why I Made A Movie Called Free The Nipple and Why I'm Being Censored In America" and the second one is "Facebook Wages War on the Nipple" and that's when I talked about censorship on Facebook and Instagram. You can show beheadings of women on Facebook as apposed to women who have survived breast cancer or breastfeeding in public. Because of the Free The Nipple campaign, women can now post pictures of breastfeeding on Facebook and Instagram. That was a bit of an improvement, but not enough. You can have Free The Boobs on Facebook, which shows oversexualized images of women to the point of pornography but that's ok. You go to pornstars' Instagrams and it's literally porn -- all they're doing is covering the areola and vagina. It's ridiculous.
Who or what has inspired you recently and why?
Laura Poitras is a big inspiration. She's one of the most badass women out there. She just did a documentary called Citizenfour about Edward Snowden. She's an incredible journalist and filmmaker.
Favorites places in LA:
To eat: Yu-N-Mi, the sushi place in Beverly Hills on Little Santa Monica. Also, Crossroads -- I go there all the time.
To escape: Maui. I swim with wild dolphins and whales there every year.
Thing to do on a Sunday afternoon: Order pizza and binge on films in bed all day.
Theater in LA: The Landmark on Pico Blvd
To shop: Black Market on Sawtelle Blvd
Under the radar must-do recommendations for LA: It's a secret